All because of seven words.

It’s an odd time of year, isn’t it? It feels odd to me anyway. I am at once coming and going, finishing and starting, looking back and looking ahead. Which can give a gal a bit of whiplash, you know?

But, as long as I remember to slow down a bit, the process of looking back on 2009 – reflecting on what I accomplished, what I want to carry forward and what I want to leave behind – and what new things I want to build and explore in the coming year is ultimately a rewarding and valuable process.

Especially when I have a tool in my tool box like a Living Theme. Because questions like “What do I want to carry forward and what do I want to leave behind?” or “What to I want to achieve in the coming year?” can quickly devolve into -ick- new year’s resolutions. Which are depressing and never work.

Creating a Theme for each new year is a technique I learned from my life coach, Laura Burkey. I’ve participated in her annual tradition of creating a Living Theme since 2004 and haven’t made a new year’s resolution since. It’s way more fun than making a list of shortcomings that need fixing and a whole lot more effective – and this past year was no exception.

the theme

My Living Theme for 2009 has been Relate Generously. For me, this had to do with everything from relating more generously to my spouse, family and friends; relating more generously to myself, my body and self-care; being more generous in my business with colleagues and clients; and having a more generous relationship with money.

I wanted a greater sense of security, abundance, intimacy and connection in all these areas of my life. And in the mysterious way things so often happen when you set a clear intention and write some stuff down – I gained an astonishing amount of what I asked for at the beginning of 2009.

the results

Looking back on my notes I am most struck by how much I wanted a closer circle of professional peers and a just-right group of clients and students. Which I have been blessed with by the bucket-full in wonderful ways I could not have imagined a year ago. I adore you all.

I am also struck by my wish for a greater sense of belonging and confidence, a greater willingness to take risks instead of delaying gratification or worrying about being good enough or what others thought. Wow did that come about in a big way, too.

And it came about when I figured out the how that supported my theme of Relate Generously.

the how

Perhaps you’re familiar with the idea that how we do one thing is how we do everything? Or, as Havi would put it, our patterns are all reflections of each other? If you can get at that core habit or behavior, you can shift a lot of stuff – which is one thing a Theme is really good for.

For much of the year, I’ve had the phrase “do the half-right thing” stuck on my computer where I can see it every day. It reminds me to do what I can when I can’t do what I want to do in the perfect way I want to do it. Wanting to do things in a precise way is a pattern that has often gotten in the way of me relating generously.

  • If I only have a portion of what I intended prepared for a post or email, I keep people waiting while I finish instead of sharing what I have now and providing the rest later.
  • If I don’t have time to take the long daily walk I committed to, I deny myself and my dog exercise by not taking a walk at all instead of taking a short one.
  • If I don’t feel like cleaning the house, I continue to live in dirt and clutter instead of choosing a few key chores that would make me feel better about my space.
  • If I don’t have something brilliant to say, I remain silent instead of showing up in small human ways and just being present for people.
  • and on and on and on…

This year, because I was more focused on and committed to generosity than perfection, I was able to make big shifts in this pattern. Is it gone? Hardly. But the conscious practice of consistently putting half of myself out there has made a big difference. I can see it in my relationships, my business – even my bank balance.

all because of seven words

Relate Generously (do the half-right thing).

This theme stuff works. It works so well and I love it so much, I asked Laura if she would pretty-please share this tradition with all of you. And – yay! – she said yes. You can learn more about her experience with annual Themes and register for an engaging tele-workshop with us at my website.

A theme is a simple, yet powerful alternative to resolutions – and a tool I encourage you to add to your own toolbox. I hope you will join us.

• • • • •

This event is the first in a new monthly series – Guest Guides – in which I’ll be introducing smart people who know cool stuff I want share with you. Announcements about future events to come.

• • • • •

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5 Responses to “All because of seven words.”


  1. 1 Bridget Pilloud November 13, 2009 at 9:39 am

    This is brilliant. The half-right can get you half-way there, which is way better than waiting for the all-right time. All-right times rarely come, but half-right times, often!

    • 2 Cairene November 13, 2009 at 10:16 am

      @Bridget
      Glad you enjoyed this!
      What surprised me most was that half-right almost always got me a lot more than half-way. That was the best part. :) C

  2. 3 Janet November 14, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    “Do the half-right thing.” Can I borrow that one for the rest of this year? ;)

    • 4 Cairene November 15, 2009 at 9:22 am

      @Janet –
      Of course! And take it into next year, too, if you like. Goodness knows I will. I’m not done with it yet for sure.

      (And I borrowed it myself – starting here, then expanding on it here.)

  3. 5 mary November 16, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    Brilliant! I went for one word this on the suggestion of Christine Kane and its had a huge effect so far.


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